Bonus Content: Does Lamar Take Big Hits On Runs?
One of the Boomer takes with Lamar Jackson is running quarterbacks don’t last, largely due to injuries. For right or wrong, that precedent was set with Mike Vick, RGIII, and possibly now with Cam Newton, but I was curious if Lamar was doing anything special on his runs that would potentially decrease his odds of getting injured compared to other running quarterbacks. So I charted the six 2019 games with play by play data on NFL GamePass (Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10). I used my best judgment to declare if he was tackled, if he slid, or if he ran out of bounds primarily unfazed, which sometimes meant the end zone. My “judgment” on if he was tackled was based on how hard of a hit and/or fall Lamar took. Here are the results:
Out of Bounds
Total (n = 50)
64% of his runs after removing sneaks, kneels, and other nonsense plays were designed runs (options, QB draws, etc.), which have been safer than quarterback scrambles per Sports Info Solutions. I will admit Lamar getting tackled on 69% of his designed runs is actually not nice, but I’d definitely argue Lamar avoids straight-on, hard-hit tackles more so than other running quarterbacks after re-watching all of these runs. Most of the time, defenders are forced to slow down before making contact because they are worried about getting juked out of their shoes (video of that here), which saves him front high-force hits. There are other times where he’s simply tripped up in open space, which intuitively seems safe because he’s often just landing on the turf without a defender landing on him:
When Lamar scrambles (36% of his runs), he’s doing a good job of getting out of bounds or sliding (he’s not getting tackled on 56% of his scrambles), which is directly tied to his elite athleticism. One interesting aspect of Lamar’s scrambling game is his “sliding”. Most quarterbacks do a foot-first, baseball slide when they go down to avoid being hit, but Lamar almost exclusively does a head-first slide (see video below). I think this is mostly a good thing, as long as he continues avoiding upper body hits which he’s mostly done thus far -- because it’s saving his knees and ankles from being wrapped up oddly.
But there’s one more thing to note, and it’s when Lamar is in the pocket. By adding plays where a quarterback is either sacked or hit while throwing (let’s call this stat “dropback hits”), we can see which quarterbacks are putting themselves at risk of injury while throwing. Out of 34 quarterbacks with at least five games, Lamar is eighth-best in avoiding dropback hits per game (2.2 per PFF). For reference, Daniel Jones is the worst with 4.8 dropback hits per game.
Overall, Lamar’s elite athleticism helps him avoid being hit hard both as a runner and passer. When Lamar runs, it’s most often on the safer designed runs, and he’s sliding or running out of bounds at a higher rate on the more dangerous quarterback scrambles. Lamar could (and arguably should) slide more often on his designed runs, but he is able to avoid hard hits because defenders slow down before contact to try to avoid getting juked. Lamar’s awareness has also kept him safer while throwing, so I’m skeptical that Lamar is more injury-prone than other quarterbacks like the Boomers like to say. Even if he is, Lamar shouldn’t change his style because he has Super Bowl winning upside while playing like this.
Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Teams are listed in order of their Vegas projected team points.
Page 1: OAK, KC, SF, NO, CAR, DAL, BAL (plus bonus Lamar content)
Page 2: MIN, DET, LAC, NE, LAR, IND, BUF, HOU, ATL, TB
Page 3: PHI, JAX, WAS, CIN, NYJ, CHI, MIA, ARI, DEN
TNF: CLE, PIT
Byes: GB, NYG, SEA, TEN
Raiders (29.75 projected points, -11 point spread) vs. CIN
Derek Carr is having a career season thanks to improved play-calling by coach Gruden. The Raiders’ top 10th percentile passing DVOA offense should shred the Bengals, who are DVOA’s worst passing defense, in terms of efficiency, but volume is a legit concern. The Cincy defense is the biggest run funnel in the NFL, ranking 1st in rush attempts allowed and 30th in pass attempts. I’m expecting Carr to have a nice first half before handing the ball to Josh Jacobs to seal an easy win, making Carr a borderline QB1 with some DFS upside if he catches good luck in the touchdown department. Vegas projects the Raiders for 29.5 points.
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Josh Jacobs is one of the most game script-dependent running backs of 2019. When the Raiders are trailing, Jacobs is not very involved, losing snaps to Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. But when the Raiders have a lead, Jacobs gets an elite RB1 workload. Well, this week, Oakland is a 10.5-point home favorite against a bottom 9th percentile defense against fantasy running backs. Jacobs is a top-eight RB1 and deserves heavy consideration in DFS. It won’t be a surprise if Jacobs sees 20-30 carries.
Tyrell Williams has been very efficient this season (9.7 YPT) but has been pretty reliant on a crazy five-game touchdown streak for fantasy production. Williams isn’t likely to keep his touchdown rate and has a 4-7 target projection on a run-heavy offense. The deep threat is a boom-or-bust WR3/4 most weeks, but he’s a solid WR3 in Week 11 against DVOA’s worst passing defense. … Rookie slot receiver Hunter Renfrow is slowly emerging with seven and five targets over the last two weeks. Renfrow isn’t my type since his aDOT sits at 6.6 yards, but he is at least on the WR5 radar now. … Darren Waller is the TE5 overall since Week 5, averaging 4.2 receptions, 53 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns per game. With the Raiders projected for the most points of the week, Waller is an upside top-four tight end.
Chiefs (28.25, -4) @ LAC
Patrick Mahomes came off injury to throw 446 yards and three touchdowns. There is still some injury risk with the MVP but that risk decreases every day that passes. Mahomes is a positive touchdown regression candidate in the second half of the season since he oddly has thrown a touchdown on just 17% of his red-zone pass attempts (league average 24%). Another potential boost for Mahomes is the Mexico City altitude. Mahomes might throw a ball 90 yards. … LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch last week partially because of fumbles but being 44th out of 47 running backs in PFF’s Elusive Rating isn’t helping either. With Shady sidelined, Damien Williams took on a modified bellcow role, finishing with 19 carries and five targets on 60 offensive snaps, while Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson were low-touch rotational backs. They can be ignored for now. The question now is if Shady will be active or inactive for Monday Night Football. This is what coach Andy Reid said about Shady’s status moving forward, “We’ll see. I'll just manage him the way I think is best so he stays effective throughout the season.” Damien would be a high-upside RB1/2 if Shady missed again and would still be an upside RB2 if Shady returned because I think he’s earned the 1A gig in this two-back committee. My guess is Shady plays and sees 5-12 touches, but I’m hoping we get more info before Sunday morning.
Tyreek Hill set new season-highs in targets and air yards last week and is obviously an upside WR1. Chargers CB Casey Hayward is good, but he simply doesn’t have the elite (4.57 forty) speed to keep up with Hill who might be the fastest player in the NFL. … It has been
84 years seven games since Sammy Watkins has scored a touchdown. Pretty incredible since the Chiefs are tied for fourth in touchdowns this season. Watkins is due and has 8, 9, and 8 targets in his last three games. Despite the forgettable box scores, Watkins remains an upside WR3 with Mahomes healthy. … Demarcus Robinson (five targets, 71% routes run last week) is a near full-time player, while rookie speedster Mecole Hardman (1, 28%) is a complementary piece. As long as Mahomes is healthy, Robinson is a boom-or-bust WR4. … Travis Kelce has scored a touchdown in his last two games, but he’s still one of the biggest positive touchdown regression candidates because Kelce only has one red-zone touchdown on 14 red-zone targets. Kelce is a top-two overall tight end whenever Mahomes is healthy.
Saints (27.75, -5.5) @ TB
Drew Brees and the Saints Offense came out of the bye and laid the egg of the year. I’m largely forgetting about that game, especially with the biggest pass funnel defense on schedule. The Bucs have allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Brees should carve up the secondary with a full complement of weapons available. He’s obviously a QB1. … Last week’s scoreboard forced the Saints to abandon the run game, but as usual, Alvin Kamara thrived as a receiver finishing with eight reception and 50 receiving yards on 10 targets. Kamara is game script dependent as a mid-range RB1, although I anticipate Latavius Murray to be more involved as a runner now than he was to begin the season. With this set up as a passing week against DVOA’s best run defense, Murray is a risky flex option who should see 7-12 carries, a few receptions, and some goal-line work on a team projected for 28 points.
Michael Thomas is on pace to beat the reception record and is in striking distance of the receiving yards and catch rate records, too. … Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith are low-volume dart throws who need a random long touchdown to pay off as a desperation flex play. The Bucs are in the bottom 16th percentile at preventing 20+ yard pass plays, so this would be an acceptable week to take a shot if need be. … Jared Cook should see more volume than Ginn and Smith after setting new season-highs in targets and air yards last week after the bye. It won’t be a surprise if Cook returns top-8 tight end value down the stretch now that he and Brees are healthy and more familiar with each other. With the Bucs defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, Cook is more of a mid-to-low end TE1 with upside than a borderline TE1/2.
49ers (27.5, -10.5) vs. ARI
Update: George Kittle and Matt Breida are doubtful, while Emmanuel Sanders gets a questionable tag despite not practicing this week. I think it's more likely Sanders is out than in. Deebo Samuel will be a high-quality flex receiver if Sanders is out. Raheem Mostert would be Tevin Coleman's running mate assuming Mostert can play after being limited in practice all week. Lots of news here.
Forecast: Jimmy Garoppolo QB1/2, Tevin Coleman RB1/2, Raheem Mostert (questionable) RB3, Emmanuel Sanders (questionable) WR3, Deebo Samuel WR3/4, Kendrick Bourne WR5, Dante Pettis WR5, Ross Dwelley TE1/2
The mixture of Arizona’s fast-paced offense and talent-less defense make them fantasy gold for opposing quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo had his best game against them two weeks ago, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns. This matchup is undoubtedly harder because of injuries. George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, and Matt Breida are all questionable at best and Joe Staley is definitely out. Unproven talents will have to step up for Jimmy G to earn a QB1 performance. I’ll hedge and call him a QB1/2. Sunday morning updates are important here. … This is a potential ceiling week for Tevin Coleman with matchup, game script, and injuries all on his side. Coleman and Breida combined for 27 carries and 101 yards against Arizona two weeks ago. Raheem Mostert (and possibly Jeff Wilson) will be involved if Breida is out, but Coleman should see 15-25 touches as a borderline RB1/2.
I’m going to assume Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle miss for this section. ... Deebo Samuel is the top receiver after seeing seven and 11 targets in his last two games. Coach Kyle Shanahan has been scheming him the ball recently, and the rookie has shown playmaking ability as he did at South Carolina. The Cardinals have been a bottom 25th percentile defense against fantasy receivers, making Samuel a nice flex option with a 6-10 target projection. … Kendrick Bourne (8 targets last week), Dante Pettis (3), and Marquise Goodwin (3) would fill in behind Samuel if Sanders is out. I’m not betting on any of them as more than WR5s since they haven’t shown anything this season and San Francisco could just turn into a very heavy run-first offense at any moment. … Ross Dwelley will fill in for the injured Kittle. Last week with Kittle out, Dwelley saw seven targets, which would be more than enough volume to shred the worst defense against tight ends. Dwelley was a very productive receiver in college and has shown enough to stream him as a TE1/2 in this matchup, especially if Sanders and Breida are also out.
Cowboys (28, -4.5) @ DET
Dak Prescott is a top-five fantasy quarterback on the year, and the Lions are in the bottom third in pass defense DVOA and at stopping opposing fantasy quarterbacks. Detroit also traded away their starting safety and might be starting Jeff Driskel, who should provide Dallas with nice field position. Prescott is a mid-range QB1 with upside. … The Cowboys began the season near the top of the league in pass rate on early downs, but they are now in the middle of the pack. For better or worse (definitely, definitely, definitely worse), Dallas is running the ball more often, which is relatively good news for Ezekiel Elliott’s fantasy value. Zeke has averaged 23.3 carries and 3.3 receptions over his last four games, numbers he should clear this week as favorites over the Lions, who are the second-worst team against fantasy running backs. Zeke is an elite (non-CMC) RB1.
Amari Cooper set a new season-high in air yards and tied his season-high in targets last week. He’s now averaging 19.0 PPR points per game with Dak as an every-week WR1. This week’s matchup against the Lions’ bottom 35th percentile defense against fantasy receivers is particularly enticing. … Michael Gallup is coming off a season-high in air yards and is a candidate for another big game this week with the Lions the second-worst defense at preventing 20+ yard passes. Gallup is an upside WR2/3. … Randall Cobb also set a new season-high in air yards last week, but he’s not a recommended flex option in a game unlikely to shoot out as long as Jeff Driskel starts for Detroit. Cobb is a WR4 who is averaging 3.9 receptions per game. … Jason Witten has been a check-down magnet (7.0 aDOT) for Dak and has settled in as a TE1/2 who needs to score a touchdown to reach any sort of ceiling. Detroit has been a below-average unit against fantasy tight ends.
Panthers (26.75, -4) vs. ATL
In the six games since Kyle Allen threw four touchdowns against the Cardinals, he’s averaged 223 passing yards, 1.0 touchdowns, and 0.8 interceptions per game. Not great, especially since he’s only picked up 14 rushing yards on the season. The Falcons Defense has been awful this season, but it did notably hold the Saints to nine points on the road last week. Perhaps the coaching rearrangement and the bye week cleaned up some things. I’m leaving Allen in the QB2 range. … I’m here to tell you to start Christian McCaffrey as an elite RB1 against the Falcons at home with a 27.5-point team total. One thing to note is the Panthers’ signing of RB Mike Davis, who won’t steal many looks from CMC but makes Reggie Bonnafon a much worse fantasy handcuff.
D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are playing two totally different games of football. Moore has been a low-aDOT, high-volume receiver, which elevates his weekly floor -- he has at least five receptions in five-straight games -- but has kept him out of the end zone in all but one game. Against the Falcons, Moore should have no problem getting open near the first-down marker as a WR1/2. Through nine games, Moore is fantasy’s WR17. … Curtis Samuel has been far less consistent because he has a 15.4 average depth of target. As you can see in the tweet below, targets 15-40 yards downfield are worth slightly more fantasy points over time, but there’s more variance in how long it takes before a true average is realized. For Samuel, we’re still waiting for bigger yardage games since he’s fifth in air yards and 41st in receiving yards. Samuel is a boom-or-bust WR3 with a decent chance of a “boom” against a Falcons Defense that is in the bottom 29th percentile at preventing 20+ yard plays. … Greg Olsen is fourth among tight ends in air yards and is coming off a 10-target game. He’s been pretty involved as a receiver in most games, which has led him to being the TE9 through 10 weeks. Olsen is a low-end TE1. The Falcons just allowed six receptions and 74 yards to Jared Cook last week.
Ravens (27.75, -4.5) vs. HOU
The fantasy QB1 overall, Lamar Jackson is an elite play against a Texans Defense that’s in the bottom 22nd percentile against fantasy quarterbacks and is now without J.J. Watt. Vegas projects Baltimore for 27.75 points. This is the best game of the week. Scroll down for more on LJ. … The offense was too good for Mark Ingram to be productive last week against the Bengals -- the Ravens became the first team since 1967 to score 49+ points with under 48 offensive plays. Volume shouldn’t be a concern for Ingram this week, however. Game script is on his side, and the high team total gives him plenty of touchdown equity since Ingram is second in inside-the-five carries (11) and first in touchdowns (7) from that area. Ingram is an upside RB2.
Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews account for 55% of the air yards in the seven games they’ve played together. Brown has elite downfield abilities, and the Texans are in the bottom 29th percentile at preventing 20+ yard pass attempts. I’m expecting Brown’s air yards to spike back up this week after game script got in the way from even bigger games in recent weeks. Brown is an upside WR2/3. Make sure to have Lamar to Brown DFS tournament stacks. … Willie Snead and to a lesser extent Miles Boykin are low-volume dart throws in a potentially high-scoring game. … Mark Andrews has been the far more consistent pass-catcher since his air yards and targets have been hovering around my “10 PPR Expected” line in the chart above. The Texans have played well against fantasy tight ends (top 26th percentile) but volume and talent should win out here. Andrews is a top-five TE1 with upside.